Jeremy Hunt has backed Rishi Sunak to solve the “fearsomely complex” challenge of getting the Rwanda asylum policy to work after it was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court.
The Chancellor said the Government does not want to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) despite calls from the right of the Tory Party.
He said he does not “believe it will come to that” as the Prime Minister keeps the threat on the table as an option to stop the flagship policy remaining stuck in the courts.
Mr Sunak has promised a new treaty with Kigali and emergency laws to deem Rwanda safe despite widespread concerns in a bid to ensure it is legally compliant.
Sacked home secretary Suella Braverman has been increasing the pressure, arguing his “tweaking and fine-tuning” will fail to get flights off before the election.
Mr Hunt conceded the policy “isn’t easy stuff” but said Mr Sunak is the “most persistent, the most determined prime minister I have ever worked with”.
He suggested Mr Sunak is more determined than Lord David Cameron, who returned from the political wilderness to become Foreign Secretary in the reshuffle this week.
“I enjoyed working with David Cameron very much, but when it comes to solving fearsomely complex problems I have never worked with anyone as phenomenal as Rishi,” Mr Hunt told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.
“I think we will see that, because I do think, when you interview me next year, we will be having a discussion about how we have succeeded in this plan, and I will be saying ‘look, it wasn’t easy, we kept at it, but that is what we promise to do’.”
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mrs Braverman said the Prime Minister has lacked the “moral leadership” to deal with pro-Palestine marches, which she has described as “mobs”.
She welcomed Mr Sunak’s plans for emergency legislation but said the changes need to be “meaningful”, adding that “tweaking and fine-tuning is not going to cut it … and we will not get flights off before the next general election”.
The Tory MP said elements of the domestic and international human rights legislation need to be excluded, as some colleagues on the right want the ECHR to be ditched altogether.
However, Mr Hunt told the BBC that “at this stage” he does not believe following Vladimir Putin’s Russia in exiting the ECHR is necessary.
“What we are saying is in the end … it must be Parliament, elected representatives in Parliament, not foreign judges, who decide who can come to this country,” he said.
“We don’t believe it will come to that at this stage, we think there are ways we can avoid that, we don’t want to do that.”
Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption argued the Rwanda plan is “probably dead” in its current form and believes judges in the European Court of Human Rights would probably agree with the top justices in the UK who blocked the plans.
“It will investigate safety for itself and probably arrive at a conclusion very similar to that of the Supreme Court,” he told Sky’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.
The five justices ruled on Wednesday that the policy was unlawful, citing concerns that Rwanda could send genuine refugees to the countries they fled from.
Many Conservative MPs fear losing their seats at the next general election, with Labour riding around 20 points ahead in the polls.
They believe that failing to achieve the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel will be highly damaging.
Mr Hunt acknowledged holding onto his own seat in Surrey will be a “tough fight”, despite having won in the 2019 election by 8,817 votes.
“I believe I can win it but I don’t underestimate the challenge and I’m out knocking on doors every week, I’ve got a fantastic team and, to use that phrase, we’ll do what it takes,” he told the BBC.